Reducing crime has been one of humanity’s prime objectives for hundreds of years, and various solutions have been proposed over the centuries. Incarceration as a go-to form of punishment for criminals dates back to ancient Rome. Modern prisons, however, are effectively a United States legacy, which may help explain why the U.S. boasts the world’s highest incarceration rate. More than 2 million people are incarcerated throughout the U.S., a rate that equals a full 25% of the global prison population.
But that’s only a small piece of a much more complicated puzzle: What happens to those individuals who have served their time? Theoretically, the jail sentence handed down as punishment for committing a crime is meant to both confine a criminal and rehabilitate him or her into a productive member of society.
In the real world, unfortunately, that model doesn’t hold up. But there may be a simple solution to the nation’s elevated recidivism rates: Prison education, fueled by eLearning.
It seems that prison education is linked to reduced instances of recidivism. Free Think reports that “inmates who receive education are 43% less likely to return to prison.” And as we know that eLearning increases educational accessibility, helping to open up our world, integrating the two concepts in order to break the cycle of crime makes a lot of sense.
Educational Opportunities for Inmates and Ex-Cons
Providing eLearning opportunities for those on parole or who were recently released begins while an individual is still incarcerated. In a number of prisons and jails across the U.S., inmates are offered the opportunity to earn their GED, or even pursue higher education. They may even get help paying for their college education.
In 2016, the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program went into effect, ushering in a new era of knowledge within America’s prison system. The program, renewed by the U.S. Education Department (ED) in early 2020, allows certain inmates to access Pell grant funds in order to further their education. Thousands of inmates qualified for the pilot program upon its inception, and those student inmates subsequently turned to eLearning for their educational needs.
Online learning is crucial for those individuals who are confined to a particular facility. What’s more, online learning in correctional facilities can be integrated with certain learning models to better generate positive results. For example, data indicates that inmates and ex-cons may benefit from an eLearning experience that centers around constructivism. Under the constructivism educational model, learning is considered an individual experience, and instructors recognize the myriad ways in which a student’s life experiences can impact their learning style.
The Challenges of Returning to Society
Lessons learned via constructivism and online education channels are likely to follow an ex-con for years. It’s important to give ex-cons plenty of survival tools to better help them navigate a society where they face widespread mistrust and discrimination. Unfortunately, collateral damage is part of the territory for those with a criminal record, even when they have fully paid their debt to society.
Ex-cons may face discrimination from prospective employers and often find it difficult to obtain professional licenses, public benefits, and student loans. That’s why eLearning and second chances are so crucial to those looking to rebuild their lives following a stint in jail or prison. It’s interesting to note that the myriad challenges facing ex-cons are nothing new.
In fact, the modern prison system is nearly as old as the country itself. Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Prison, the nation’s first, was founded in 1790 with the expansion of the Walnut Street Jail. Walnut Street Prison closed down in 1835, but it established a legacy of prisons as both a means of punishment and rehabilitation. The rehabilitation aspect has been unfortunately lost over the years, and eLearning may serve as a catalyst towards education and a better life for ex-cons.
Rising Above Poverty and Criminal Activity
For ex-cons, poverty prevents yet another challenge to overcome during the reintegration process. Court fees and penalties, coupled with roadblocks to securing employment, many ex-cons get trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime without the opportunity to further their financial goals.
Over the years, numerous solutions have been proposed that may help alleviate the burden of poverty among the formerly incarcerated. Prisoners and ex-cons should be provided work release opportunities, as well as payment flexibility for any monies owed as a result of crimes committed. eLearning is another viable solution, as formerly incarcerated individuals can easily access myriad resources in order to further their education. And those prisoners who were able to further their education while serving time have tools in hand upon release that can help break the cycles of poverty, crime, and recidivism.
eLearning and Pell grant opportunities for prisoners are helping to reduce recidivism rates among the formerly incarcerated. And a convict’s educational journey doesn’t have to end upon completion of his or her sentence. With eLearning, prisoners can gain the skills they need to successfully apply for jobs and re-enter the workforce upon release.